For the love of this world

kicker: caption text here.

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

― Maya Angelou

Any reader would be able to tell you how the act of reading changes lives by opening up new worlds and helping you find your feet in the one you exist. On a recent trip to Kolkata, I met someone who suddenly proclaimed to be communal. I was taken aback. I wondered how someone could feel that way in this day and age, or how they could feel any pride in proclaiming to be so. What was missing was not only the need to know, but a lack of reading, too. Most information we get is biased, agreed, but what we can count on are multiple perspectives that tell us there are many other ways of looking at a subject.

Books, and the act of reading, are powerful weapons that can revolutionise the world with progressive thoughts. What happens when we share that act of reading with a community and find many voices to hear, understand and assimilate? Well, it is a revolution named Arivina Payana/ Odu Abhiyaana by Kosha Odu Desha Nodu.  

This movement began in October 2017 and was heralded by activist and literary enthusiast Muneer Katipalla. When asked what was the thought that sparked the movement, Chetana Tirthahalli, a citizen journalist and a notable member of the movement recalls, “Some youngsters used to ask us about good books as most of them had never read anything other than their textbooks before. They wanted to start with a good book that would inspire them. So, Muneer Katipalla designed this campaign to reach new readers, especially youngsters. The response was excellent, especially on the social media, with hundreds of them reading the books we chose.”

They began their reading journey with the novel Chirasmarane by Niranjana, which is based on the revolt that took place in Kayyur in the 1940s, where the farmers rose against the feudal lords. Once having read the book, social media was alight with discussions on the book. Readers shared their experiences, and once the movement gained momentum, it was decided that they would visit Kayyur. Finally, last November, they visited Kayyur. There, they went around the places described in the book, discussed the revolt, and met with people who added insight into their reading experience and understanding. What began as a book recommendation had found itself a physical representation. Such an immersive experience allows one to see the book for what it represents, rather than seeing it as just another story. In fact, it encourages interaction and helps in the formation of ideas. 

Chomana Dudi by Shivaram Karanth was the second book they chose to read in December 2017. Choma, an untouchable bonded-labourer in a village, works along with his family for a landlord. Due to his social status, he is not allowed to till his own land. He and his family are forced to go through a series of unfortunate events and situations just because they are untouchables, and are exploited to no end by those in power. One fine day, he breaks down, shuts himself home, and starts playing the drum till his last breath as a way of venting his anger at his fate. The book found itself being discussed on social forums that Arivina Payana had established by now.

In July 2018, Arivina Payana picked its third book, Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh. “As communal forces were tearing the society apart, we decided to read this book, along with Tamas and Manto’s stories, for a better understanding of the society we live in," Tirthahalli explains. The fervour with which these books were taken up led to sales hikes, and the team started stocking the books for those interested. Yet again, immense interest people exhibited, and active book discussions on the social media prompted the founders to turn reading into an immersive experience. The result was a two-day workshop in August, in Mangaluru, along with panel discussions with journalists and authors, where a play based on Manto's stories was also staged. 

As readers, we have to see these books in the present socio-economic context to better understand the situation we are in. Tirthahalli echoes similar sentiments when she says reading is what helps us in this realisation. Their upcoming recommendation is Samvidhana Odu by Justice Nagamohan Das in an attempt to understand our country’s Constitution and all that it has to offer us, citizens. 

It sure is a movement that is not only fostering a sense of community, but also exploring ideologies. A much-needed step for the people of today, young and old, to understand and question, to learn more, and to be conscious of the thoughts they formulate. 

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For the love of this world

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